Artist Caroline Shotton - All art work available, originals, signed limited edition prints and sculptures. I have been painting for as long as I can remember. I lived on the outskirts of London which meant I benefited from being within easy reach of London Galleries and open countryside, both of which were a source of immense inspiration to me. As an only child I had the freedom to immerse myself in my work, I also received a great deal of encouragement and guidance from my Grandmother who raised me for which I am eternally grateful.
Early influences came from the old masters. I was fascinated by their realism and throughout my school years strived perfection.
When studying at Central Saint Martins my eyes were opened to new ideas and techniques. I was captivated both by surrealism and impressionism and much of my work now combines elements from these eras.
After college I worked as a freelance artist in the commercial sector, undertaking bespoke commissions from businesses throughout the country, from large abstracts to intricate murals. I enjoyed this as every project was different and I was often asked to produce styles and subject matter I would never have dreamt of had I been alone in my studio.
When my son was born I decided to concentrate on my gallery career. It has been lovely painting without a strict brief and my work has developed immeasurably, incorporating different aspects from my past commissions with the freedom to choose my own direction.
It may be a scrap of paper I’ve saved from a furnishing magazine or the disgruntled look cows give me as I pass them in the field that morning that inspires me to paint. I find myself constantly sourcing images, taking photographs and scribbling down ideas which I may use that day or in a year’s time.
I get inspiration when I least expect it, normally when I’m relaxing and not consciously thinking about painting. I wonder how I’d capture on canvas the way the light’s falling on my son’s hair or which techniques I’d use to recreate the decaying plasterwork on a disused shop front.
I am privileged to have been asked to undertake many different commissions throughout my career incorporating subject matter and methods I wouldn’t have considered alone in my studio. This has pushed me to unforeseen artistic tangents and given me an invaluable catalyst for the future.
I generally have a clear vision of what’s going on the canvas and my preparation involves collating reference material relating to the theme of the painting and some very rough preliminary drawings, although sometimes I sketch straight on to the canvas and allow the piece to develop of its own accord.
I use layers of paper, paint and varnish to accentuate particular areas and to create a tactile surface. This invariably takes time to dry so I work on a number of canvasses simultaneously.
I begin by a applying a subtle texture to the whole canvas using primer and tissue paper, roughly sketch out the composition and block in the larger areas of colour. The image is very abstract at this stage but I’m not precious about keeping within a particular line as this will change as the painting evolves. Next I work on the background design and the main image, paying close attention to balance their relationship as the more intricate backgrounds can easily become overbearing and detract from the whole concept of the piece. I then pipe a line of paint around the outer edges of the main image to differentiate it further from the background.
When it’s near completion I apply a layer of varnish and paint over the whole canvas to unite the background to the figure. While this is drying I step back and view the piece from a distance, this enables me to decide which areas need any tone adjustment, and to make sure the facial expressions are correct. Lastly, I work on the fine detail. The eyes are the most important element and finest brushstrokes can change the character and personality immensely.
We’re normally woken up around 6am by our son, Sam and after breakfast I normally do the household chores before taking him to nursery so I have no distractions during the day. I love working from home and even though the washing machine’s often whirring away in the corner of my studio, I don’t envy my husband’s daily commute.
I try to exercise every day and I’ll either go for a run or take the dog for a long walk. I find it really exhilarating and I can gather my thoughts before starting work around 9.30.
I usually collate my reference material and prepare my canvasses the night before a studio day, applying texture, working out rough compositions and applying block colour. This means they are dry the following morning and I know I have the whole day ahead to work on the intricate areas.
I was a choral scholar at college and classical music has always been of great inspiration to my work and to this day I can’t paint without it. I often lose track of time when painting only to prompted back to reality when it’s time to change a CD or make another cup of tea as the last one’s been forgotten and left to go cold. I stop painting around 5 to pick Sam up and after he’s gone to bed I often go back in the studio and review my paintings with fresh eyes and prepare my canvasses for the next day. I look forward to my husband coming home to see my work as he’s (usually) a good critic. I have to discipline myself not to go back the studio after dinner otherwise I would probably paint all night. I’m normally tempted out when I hear him opening a bottle of wine though.